Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Author: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: March 12, 2013
The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .
When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.
Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.
Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.—via Goodreads
For some reason, I always forget how intensely creepy the story of Bluebeard is.
Though I’ve been keeping my distance from things that are even marginally scary due to my very terrible reaction to a horror movie I watched about six months ago (I’m seriously still having nightmares. That movie ruined me.), I was very intrigued by Strands of Bronze and Gold even though it’s packaged as a retelling of a story I know resides in the scarier region of the fairy tale strata.
Luckily, I enjoyed the book. Jane Nickerson does a fantastic job of creating atmosphere and setting, and her historical research into the time period of on-the-brink of Civil War Mississippi is fantastic. Her writing is rich with detail, from descriptions of fashion to food (but not in a George R. R. Martin way) to depression and loneliness to natural surroundings, and I found myself often impressed with her ability to write in a way that evoked the tone of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre—a book that the main character, Sophie, actually eludes to when she first arrives at Wyndriven Abbey—without it feeling like a retelling of Jane Eyre.
A big reason why I enjoyed reading this despite my reservations is because Sophie is a nice mix of Jane Austen’s Emma and Louisa May Alcott’s Jo from Little Women. Sophie is young and naive with a flair for fashion and sumptuous fabrics, but she’s also smart, observant, and moral. As the plot moves forward and she realizes that her godfather is not exactly who she thought he was, she began to remind me of Sansa in the A Song of Ice and Fire series in how she comported herself—she realized she was trapped in her situation and that the only way to survive it was to patiently, politically play along until a decent opportunity to escape presents itself.
Overall, Strands of Bronze and Gold is a beautifully, richly written retelling of Bluebeard that is well-plotted and well-paced. If you’re in the mood for something like Northanger Abbey or Jane Eyre, Strands of Bronze and Gold will definitely satisfy you.